On June 15th, 2020, a group of protestors organized a demonstration in protest of racial injustice in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with the goal of removing a symbolic monument of a Spanish conquistador, Juan de Oñata. They clashed against an opposing group, an armed militia known as the New Mexico Civil Guard, who were against the tearing down of the statue in fear that this event would lead to the widespread destruction of property.
Amidst the chaotic standoff, a shooting occurred between one of the organizers and the militia, leaving one protestor critically injured. Police in Albuquerque, who were readily nearby, quickly intervened and arrested the suspected individual within the militia, while swiftly defusing the situation and preventing any further violence. These kinds of events are becoming more prevalent, and without police intervention, these groups, and the broader public that is affected by their violence, have no recourse except vigilante justice. Only a neutral police force can maintain the peace and safety of all parties while holding those willing to commit violence accountable.
In recent months, a new political movement has surfaced advocating for the defunding or overall abolishment of the police in response to racial injustices. This movement has gone as far as affecting the climate towards the George Washington Police Department (GWPD). The notion of abolishing or even defunding the university’s police department simply inhibits the school from providing the tools and professionals necessary to establish a safe environment for students.
On September 30th, 2019, a standoff, similar to the one in Albuquerque, occurred at George Washington University when a group from The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Prosperity organized a demonstration on the Foggy Bottom Campus in opposition to abortion. In response, groups of students began to counterprotest in favor of being pro-choice, with rapidly growing numbers as the pro-life demonstration went on.
GWPD officers, accompanied by officers from the Metropolitan Police Department, were then dispatched to ‘keep the peace’ between the two groups and maintain the students’ safety. As the protest ensued, the tension and hostility between the two rapidly grew, resulting in the officers, in fear of the impending physical escalation, to stand between them until the pro-life group was escorted off the campus.
In that instance, if the GWPD had been defunded or abolished, it would have left the officers mal-equipped, mal-trained, or simply absent in their response to the protestors facing off, and the rapidly de-stabilizing situation could have easily deteriorated into a physical and violent exchange with far-reaching consequences for overall public safety in that area. Therefore, a bi-partisan effort to provide systemic changes to the justice system to address inequalities would be a far better approach to ensuring public safety than defunding or abolishing the police.